Wednesday, May 28, 2014
The Uncomfortable Split
I am not sure whether the Volvo commercial with Jean-ClaudeVan Damme performing a truly “epic” split led to more sales of trucks. What I do know is that in addition to going viral, the commercial got me thinking, and for me, the split has become a metaphor.
It is either a sign of my nuanced views and/or an indication of my poor writing skills that as I have worked to try to create a middle ground between the worlds of Right-wing Modern Orthodoxy and Open Orthodoxy, it has been assumed by some that I am a musmach of YCT, a believer in the need for the ordination of women, a supporter of partnership minyanim, a puppet to the “right-wing” roshei yeshiva of YU, a charedi and beholden to Rabbis Gil Student or Ysoscher Katz. In fact, I am none of the above. I am however, a believer in serious learning opportunities for women, making women as comfortable as possible in shul within the limits of halacha, that moderation is not a dirty word, that halacha has rules, and that Rabbis Katz and Student, are acting l'sheim shamayim and have contributed to the world of Torah. Although I am more comfortable within the world of YU, and lean towards halachic conservativism, I am sympathetic to some of the motivations behind psak that has come from musmachim of and teachers at YCT. I have been spiritually and intellectually nurtured by many of the Roshei Yeshiva at YU, even as I do not fully identify with most of them hashkafically.
I suppose that it is fitting that I write these words on Yom Yerushalayim, living in a community where most shuls said tachanun this morning. More and more, I find myself most sympathetic to Israeli institutions where serious Torah scholarship, combines with moderation and a willingness to make slow but steady progress in advancing thoughtful progressive change. Yeshivat Har Etzion's Roshei Yeshiva and rabbeim serve as models of what I aspire to in Torah. At Gush, as the yeshiva is known, there is a commitment to openness to the challenging questions on Torah and halacha, within a clear spirit of yirat shamayim. Beit Hillel acts to promote women's learning and leadership positions, tolerance and a values based approach to psak and the klal.
I find myself wondering what it is about Israel that allows for these institutions to achieve a balance that American institutions struggle to achieve. Looking for the chance to, once again teach Torah, I wonder if there is an institution which would be comfortable with my views. Being that aliyah is most likely at least a few years off, I remain stuck in this uncomfortable split, hoping that the supports on which I am precariously balanced, don't move further apart.